Sandra Vaughn didn’t know what gunshots sounded like. She said she thought that someone was banging on their trash cans.

Vaughn lives next door to Blair Ness and his family, the man who police say murdered his own 16-month-old son, Ashton, Sunday afternoon Aug. 19 in broad daylight in the courtyard of their Oak Forest Apartment complex. Witnesses say they heard yelling outside and discovered Ness on top of his child, stabbing him repeatedly, until one witness, Andrew Austin, retrieved a firearm and shot the suspect in order to halt the attack.

According to the probable cause affidavit, police found a trail of blood leading back to Ness’ apartment, where they believe the assault began. Even after being shot and then tased, Ness continued to struggle violently against officers. After being placed in handcuffs, the affidavit says Ness told officers, “I know everyone’s mad. I’m mad. I killed my son.”

Vaughn and others described Oak Forest as a quiet neighborhood. She said she did not know the family well, but they never yelled. There was never any sign of strife or danger.

“I never heard anything like that,” she said.

Daylight horror

Witnesses and 911 calls describe a scene of abject horror and disbelief in the surrounding apartments. The first caller immediately made the situation clear.

“There’s someone killing a little kid out here in Oak Forest Apartments right now. Somebody needs to get out here right now.”

Blair Michael Ness’ mugshot. (Image courtesy Lewisville Police)

Over almost 13 minutes of 911 calls, the first of which came in at 12:41 p.m., multiple witnesses express shock at what they’re seeing. 911 operators quickly begin asking for as specific information as possible, realizing they’re receiving calls about the same incident. Several shorter calls toward the end of the recordings are of residents who simply heard gunfire and didn’t know what else was happening.

Many residents were traumatized by what they saw and heard. Anthony King, who said he’d lived at the apartment complex for nine years, said it’s something he can’t unsee.

King said he was first alerted when a friend knocked at his door, saying that someone had slammed a child down to the ground in the courtyard. King went outside to investigate, and said that at first he thought he saw Ness performing CPR, as if he’d accidentally dropped Ashton and was trying to resuscitate him. Then, King saw that the man’s hands were covered in blood. King gathered his family and went inside, and said he’s had difficulty going back to his patio.

“It’s an image that’s burned into my head,” he said. “We can’t even go outside without seeing it.”

King echoed what many other residents have said, that Ness was screaming incoherently, mostly things related to scripture and that Jesus was coming.

After Ness was shot by Austin, he told Austin to shoot him again. Austin said he chose not to because that’s what Ness wanted.  

“Because that’s what he wanted, I’d rather him have to live with what he did,” Austin said. “People can say I would have done this or I would have that, but I doubt any of them have seem something that horrific before.”

Police arrive

According to the probable cause affidavit, police arrived about two minutes after the first call came in. They found Ness, back on his feet and not complying with their commands. Police tased Ness, and it still took multiple officers to drag him back to the squad car.

Another officer scooped up Ashton and rushed him to a waiting ambulance. He would be pronounced dead at the hospital at 12:54, though witnesses say he appeared to be dead already.

After clearing the scene of Ness and Ashton, police discovered a trail of blood from where Ashton was found to their apartment, as well as multiple kitchen knives and a set of shears, all individually stained with blood. Police requested a search warrant before entering the apartment.

Residents set up a memorial of teddy bears and candles near where he was murdered. (Photo by Leopold Knopp)

While waiting for the warrant to come back, the other resident, Ness’ girlfriend and Ashton’s mother, returned home. She told police everything was fine when she left for work at 10 a.m. that day, that Ness was feeding Ashton. She said that Ness had been reading the Bible more recently and they had started going to church, but she couldn’t think of any reason for Ness to have hurt Ashton.

When the search warrant came back signed, detectives entered Ness’ apartment and found that the trail of blood continued inside to the kitchen and up the kitchen counter to the knife block. Detectives also found a large bloodstain in the master bedroom and a folding pocket knife that was also stained with blood. Police also found fragments of skull near the bedroom door against the wall, indicating that the assault had began inside the residence.

Criminal history

Ness has been charged with capital murder of a person under 10 years of age and transferred to Denton County Jail, with his bond set at $1.5 million. Police smelled freshly burnt marijuana in the apartment, but a full toxicology report will not come back for about a month.

Ness has a significant criminal history in Valencia County, New Mexico. He was arrested in 2013 after a six-hour standoff with a SWAT team after police were called by a woman who said Ness was sexually assaulting her.

The Lewisville Texan Journal has filed a request for more detailed records into this case, but New Mexico court records show that while Ness was initially charged with criminal sexual penetration, resisting arrest and evading and obstructing justice, he eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and second-degree kidnapping of a victim under the age of 18. His sentence was deferred, and was eventually dismissed entirely in March of this year after he completed probation.

Court records also show an intoxicated driving incident in August 2011, for which Ness paid fines and did 24 hours of community service.

Ashton Ness. (Image courtesy gofundme.com)

A candlelight vigil for Ashton is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night, Aug. 23, at Wayne Ferguson Plaza in Lewisville. Attendees are encouraged to wear blue.

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